9 Sure-Fire Ways To Handle A Stubborn Child [Expert Tips]

It will come as no surprise to parents that one of the most common problems of parenting that we all face are tantrums, meltdowns and temperamental kids. 

They are hard to understand, hard to prevent and even harder to positively reciprocate while it is happening. 

How to manage a stubborn child

For example, one of the most common scenarios that we all face at a supermarket is your child being temperamental & stubborn about wanting a particular chocolate or toy.

Your five year old starts tugging at your shirt while you are at the supermarket checkout. They are sure to have spotted the hard-to-miss conveniently-placed treats shelved at their eye level. 

Your general response, “You can’t have one”. “Please don’t do that”. Now be a good child and leave Mummy’s shirt alone” “Darling, you can see I’m busy with the lady” “Please, be good and do what I ask?” “Stop that now please”  

Sounds familiar? 

Temperament is something that we are born with. 

Children can be temperamental and you must understand you are not alone. Most of us go through it on a daily basis which can be quite frustrating and emotionally and mentally draining and can test our patience and resolve even the toughest among us especially considering the present work-from-home situation for both parents. 

Most children are temperamental and stubborn whilst they are young. All we get to hear from kids in their troublesome two’s to any question or request we make is a loud NO! It is either their way or the highway. 

Adding to the parenting woes is the fact that preschoolers are not cognitively and physically fully developed to accomplish everything they desire and there is a good chance they will resist and rebel. 

But, the way in which you handle your stubborn child will make all the difference into the type of adult they turn out to be later on. 

Most preschoolers are undergoing huge developmental changes that make them act this way, and it does not mean the way you are parenting is wrong or that there is something abnormal with them. 

Most preschoolers figure out that they are their own person and they are excited to experiment with their new-found independence. 

They try to exert their autonomy and try to figure what they can or cannot do and learn through cause and effect and by trial and error. 

Is my child stubborn?

Knowing that your child is growing independent gives us great satisfaction and is a proud moment for parents but it gets tricky when you cannot tell the difference between determination and stubbornness. 

So how do you tell one from the other? Psychologically, the meaning of determination is “firmness of purpose” whereas stubbornness is defined as refusing to change one’s thoughts, behaviours, or actions regardless of the external pressure to do otherwise.

Characteristics Of A Stubborn Child:

  • They have a strong need to be acknowledged and heard. So they may seek your attention often.
  • They come across as being highly independent and are committed to doing what they like at their own pace.
  • Most children throw tantrums, but stubborn ones may do so more often.
  • They have strong leadership qualities – they can be “bossy” at times.

Now, for the most important bit, how can you establish your authority without compromising your child’s independence?

9 Simple Tips On How To Deal With A Stubborn Child

  1. Knowing your child’s triggers: If your child always fights you when they have to brush in the mornings, you can be prepared with a distraction or a way to make the situation fun. “Explain that once they brush their teeth, they can have their favourite breakfast, or they can pick their own clothes for the day”. But, when most of us find our mornings packed and you have a child being stubborn about the basic things like this, don’t keep negotiating (especially in a non-negotiable situation such as this). Simply say: We are not going to do anything or you will not get breakfast until you do so”
  2. Pick your battles: If your child tries to rebel in a fairly trivial situation, it can be helpful to let the child do what they want to. If your child insists on getting dressed or picking out their own clothes, you might allow them to do so on the weekend when you have the time to spare. This way your child will feel like they have autonomy and some control over what they want and can make their own decisions. 
  3. Avoid saying NO too often: All kids need to hear the word “no,” but if you use it constantly, your child may start tuning it out or start becoming even more defiant. Rather than saying “no” or shouting, you could say “I need you to talk calmly” which is a more positive way of interacting with your child.
  4. Praise for good behaviour: Look for instances to praise your child for good behaviour that way the child does not feel like they are being schooled always or being disciplined.
  5. Connect with them: Don’t force your child into doing something you want them to since they tend to rebel and do things they should not. Connecting with your child shows them that you care and are willing to meet them halfway.
How to deal with a stubborn child

For example: Forcing your preschooler to stop watching TV past their bedtime when that’s exactly what they want to do will not help. Instead showing interest in what they are watching shows you care and children are likely to respond positively and will try to cooperate. 

6. Try to listen: Communicating with your child is a two-way street. If you would like your child to listen to you, you need to listen to them first. Stubborn children tend to rebel and become defiant when they feel like they are not being heard. Hence, listening and having an open conversation is the first step towards resolving stubbornness.

7. Give them options: Children who are generally temperamental and stubborn tend to have a mind of their own and do not always like being told what to do. Giving children options and not directives helps them feel like they are in control and are independent enough to make their own choices. For example: If you have laid the rules of the house and your child is not adhering to it, the simple thing you could do is repeat the same thing calmly as many times as needed. When you sound like a broken record, your child will give in eventually. 

8. Saying calm: Helping your child understand the consequences of their actions sets the stage for what is expected out of them. Shouting at a defiant child will turn every conversation into an argument. Hence as an adult, it is your responsibility to steer the conversation to a practical conclusion. 

9. Respect them: Let your child do what they can for themselves, avoid the temptation to do something for them, to reduce their burden. This also tells them that you trust them.

Lastly, say what you mean and do what you say. Spend time connecting with your children and be patient and gentle with yourselves. Parenting a stubborn child can be difficult, and these are indeed challenging times.

About

Passionate Child Psychologist with a cumulative experience of over 7 years and in the mental wellness field. Love travelling and exploring new places! You'd find me whipping up some baked goodies during my free time.

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